A sperm bank or cryobank is a facility that collects and stores human sperm mainly from sperm donors, primarily for the purpose of achieving pregnancies through third party reproduction, notably by artificial insemination. Sperm donated in this way is known as donor sperm. The first two sperm banks were opened in Iowa City, Iowa, USA and Tokyo, Japan in 1965.
Sperm supplied by a sperm bank may be used where a woman's partner is infertile or where he carries genetic disease. Increasingly, donor sperm is used to achieve a pregnancy where a woman has no male partner, including among lesbian and bisexual mothers-to-be. Sperm from a sperm donor may also be used in surrogacy arrangements and for creating embryos for embryo donation. Donor sperm may be supplied by the sperm bank directly to the recipient to enable a woman to perform her own artificial insemination which can be carried out using a needle-less syringe or a cervical cap conception device. The cervical cap conception device allows the donor semen to be held in place close to the cervix for between six to eight hours to allow fertilization to take place. Alternatively, donor sperm can be supplied by a sperm bank through a registered medical practitioner who will perform an appropriate method of insemination or IVF treatment using the donor sperm in order for the woman to become pregnant.
From a medical perspective, a pregnancy achieved using donor sperm is no different from a pregnancy achieved using partner sperm, and it is also no different from a pregnancy achieved by sexual intercourse.
Sperm banks may supply other sperm banks or a fertility clinic with donor sperm to be used for achieving pregnancies. Sperm banks may also supply sperm for research or educational purposes.
In countries where sperm banks are allowed to operate, the sperm donor will not usually become the legal father of the children he produces as the result of the use of the sperm he donates, but he will be the 'biological father' of such children. In cases of surrogacy involving embryo donation, a form of 'gestational surrogacy', the 'commissioning mother' or the 'commissioning parents' will not be biologically related to the child and may need to go through an adoption procedure.
As with other forms of third party reproduction, the use of donor sperm from a sperm bank gives rise to a number of moral, legal and ethical issues.
Men may also use a sperm bank to store their own sperm for future use particularly where they anticipate traveling to a war zone or having to undergo chemotherapy which might damage the testes.